I’d been to Water Lane in Bishop’s Stortford for lunch a while back — and thoroughly enjoyed it — but they’ve taken on new chef and a brand new general manager recently, so I popped back to check out any changes. Y’know, it would have been rude not to…
In terms of how it looks, nothing much has changed. It’s still classy yet casual — lots of exposed original brickwork and industrial chic, but harking back through the building’s history rather than just tacked on. The building was a brewery as far back as the 17th century, history buffs, and has housed all sorts of goings-on in the centuries since — mostly food-and-drink-related. I’m liking how it’s settling nicely into its current incarnation, though.
I popped in on a rather horrid rainy and windy day — sound familiar? — and I could quite happily have curled up there all afternoon. It’s not a cosy table by the fire sort of a place, but it is warm and relaxed and friendly — and you can forget that you’re right in the middle of town.
I had a quick chat to the new chef and manager while I was there. They’re both wildly enthusiastic about making Water Lane somewhere really special — and Harry, the manager, is ridiculously young (or looks it, anyway) and brimming over with energy when he’s talking about what he wants the place to be.
The menu has always been good — but it’s now a bit more interesting as well as good and reliable. And the Market Menu — 2 courses for £12.95 or 3 for £15.95 — is a nice-and-easy place to start if you’re in a hurry. I plumped for the crispy squid a la Romana on top of a cannellini bean cassoulet, and it was hot and delicious — and just the right size. I had trouble not forking into the roast chicken, pancetta and mushroom risotto that my friend Sandra chose, too. Good thing I’m far too polite for that…
There are some serious steaks, too — all British or Irish and aged 28 days, and with a range of sauces, toppings and more to spice them up a little, should you like a bit of spicing up.
You’ve got to love a place, too, that offers something juicy for pudding. Too often (IMHO) restaurants seems to run out of steam on the pud menu. I mean, I like a sticky toffee pudding or a brownie as much as the next woman, possibly more, but seriously… hazelnut praline profiteroles with salted caramel ice cream and hot fudge sauce? At lunchtime? Oh, go on then.
One thing I love, too, about Water Lane is the cellar bar downstairs. Upstairs, there’s a lovely stylish eating space — but the cellar is home to a serious cocktail bar, with the best ceiling you’ve seen in a bar in the long time and lots of nooks and booths that are just crying out to be filled with you and a bunch of your besties. And a bottle or two of something lovely.
I don’t make it to Bishop’s Stortford half as often as I’d like to, but when I do it’s so good to know that there’s the option for a properly lovely lunch right there in town. If you’ve not found it yet, tucked away round the corner, then I reckon you’re missing a trick.
The Muddy Verdict:
Great for: lunch — whether you want to pop in and eat quickly or relax and take your time over three courses, it’s a brilliant and different choice with an interesting menu and lots of variety — and dinner, too, with sharing plates and the same range of deliciousness. And definitely the place to go for your cocktails and nights out in town!
Not do great for: I’d take my Mudlings there, if I had to, but it’s got a lovely grown up feel that I do enjoy, too.